PGA Tour Needs Some Titleists.

You know...Balls?

I watched a good bit of the PGA Tour for the first time this weekend.  Ben Crane walked away with the win in San Diego by doing as little as humanly possible for the last nine holes.  It wasn’t the Mickelson blowout that the Tour would have liked, but Mickelson was there doing his routine, and Rickie Fowler even made the cut for the first time this year.  Good signs.  I took a few things away from watching the event, and all of them come back to one thing.  The large percentage of the guys out there are playing for pay check first, and trophies second.  They shepherd the ball around for the cash, and if they coast into a win like Ben Crane, that’s great.  Maybe it’s hard to blame them considering the stakes, considering how important it is to make enough money to earn your card, but it doesn’t make for very exciting golf.

The lay-up has been the story of the year.  Last week at the Bob Hope Tim Clark opted to lay-up on the final hole.  Earlier in the round, long-hitting Bubba Watson did the same on a par five.  On Sunday at Torrey Pines, I thought they’d brought back the balata.  Two hundred forty-five yards out on 18, and it was red light.  Now, it’s hard to be critical of one specific shot.  Who knows about a lie, or a player’s comfort level with hitting a certain shot, and yes going for the green is no guarantee.  In all cases, there were hazards around the green.  But, it’s starting to feel like a mind-set.  Down by 2, Brandt Snedeker didn’t go for the green Sunday on 18.  Michael Sim, who was only one shot behind had a clean look from 245-250, and hit a 7-iron down the fairway.  That yardage sounds daunting, but these guys are on Tour!  You can’t hit a three wood down there somewhere on dry land, and hit a chip and a putt?

Yes, the pin was tucked, so much so that Snedeker and Sim didn’t get all that close with their 3rd shots, then missed their birdie efforts (Sim gorked a simple chip, but we’ll get to that later).  All this allowed Ben Crane to play 18 in bumper bowling mode, not that he didn’t make it interesting.  I guess the problem I have is, from where Sim was in the fairway, 1 shot behind there’s no way Phil Mickelson doesn’t hit 3-wood.  It’s not possible he lays up there.  Why?  Because, he’s probably thinking about making eagle to win, and not giving himself a 15-footer to maybe get into a playoff.  I just wonder how many of today’s pros would take a rip in that situation.  With a tightly packed leaderboard a 6 or 7 could have been a big hit to the wallet if they ended up in the drink, but if you can’t hit a 3 wood solid enough to get over the water, what are you doing out there?  Block it into the gallery, rope hook it into the grandstand, you’re getting a drop, and you still have a chance.  Pretty maddening.

Not only has the lay-up become a must have shot, but we got a little taste of the Tiger effect without Tiger on Sunday.  We’re accustomed to seeing players wilt down the stretch with Woods on the property, but it was in full effect on Sunday with Woods nowhere to be found.  Ben Crane played beautifully to start the round, but as the holes dwindled, his nerves seemed to leave him.  A hideous stroke on a 3-footer on 17 let some people back into the tournament, and a nervous par on 18 followed.  Ryuji Imada imploded down the stretch.  Michael Sim, who aggressively hit driver on 17, backed off the pedal on 18 and then chunked a chip he needed for the tie.  Rickie Fowler made the old “two-chip, two-putt double” on 17.  Where are the guys who know how to win?  More importantly, is everyone out there focused on winning?

Lastly, can the guys stop whining about the grooves and the guys using the Ping wedges?  Scott McCarron cried about Phil Mickelson cheating, because he used the Ping loophole.  Said he was appalled that Mickelson put the club in play.  I’m appalled that someone put a mic in McCarron’s face and asked for his opinion.  Phil would beat him every which way with square grooves, v-shaped grooves, a tennis racket, whatever.  Get off your stump, McCarron.  The Tour can’t make up its mind on whether to allow the wedges, then they’re legal.  End of story.  Go get one on Ebay.  Then you’ll only miss the cut by 4 shots.  Do I think the PGA should enact a local rule banning the use of the grandfathered Ping wedges?  Yes, but until they do, you can’t fault a guy for playing them.  And, casting Phil as the villain, I’m no Phil guy, but he wasn’t the first or only one to do it this season.  Move on.

Most Annoying Mutt of the Week.

He's Going to Mess it Up.

Just a note about the “Most Annoying Mutt of the Week” segment.  I try to highlight someone, or something that I didn’t throughout the week.  So, this week for example, Paul Shirley was not under consideration.  It was a tough decision this week.  For a moment  I contemplated all head-band wearing male tennis players, but then backed off.  In the end, I wanted to anoint someone in the Eagles front office.  It’s GM Howie Roseman’s first day on the job (too soon?).  But, he doesn’t have any power anyway.  Andy Reid?  Too many pictures of Reid can’t be good for traffic.  So, I decided on the stone cold Polo wearing pimp, Joe Banner.  The king of the Eagles front office, the most senior of the guys who don’t really have any football experience.

Banner gets on my nerves for a number of reasons.  His press conferences are ridiculous.  Today he said he wasn’t really going to talk about the quarterback situation, because the organization hasn’t had the time to talk it out.  Ok.  Then out of the blue he’ll shoot his mouth off with something ridiculous like saying the Eagles have the most talent in the league.  I don’t question that Banner performs a valuable service to the organization, but I think his power has extended a bit too far, and he always seems a bit too pleased with himself considering the Eagles have yet to win a Super Bowl.

The Donovan McNabb issue is going to define the off-season, and you just get the feeling that this group (of which I’m appointing Banner the ringleader for today) is going to mess this up.  Kurt Warner called it quits today.  There’s a good chance Brett Favre will do the same.  There are other teams out there (San Francisco?) that could use a quarterback.  Considering the position he plays and the market, could you almost see there being a high demand for D-Mac?  The Cardinals are coming off back-to-back successful seasons.  They have a great group of offensive weapons.  You think they want to turn the keys over to Paris Hilton’s drunk dial?  And, you know Brad Childress would love to get McNabb.  Think of how much more painful the final seconds could have been for Vikings fans if Donovan had been at the helm?  He never would have thrown that pick that Favre did, but the clock probably would have long since been expired.

All this, and I still have this feeling that we’re going to see Donny Mac back for one more go around.  Banner was blabbering today about how playing on the last year of a contract isn’t unprecedented.  He reiterated that Andy makes the decisions, and we all know Andy already said that Don’s his starter.  It’s the culture of delusion, and Banner is the king.  They think they’re better than they are.  They think 10 wins is the gold standard.  They know Donovan is probably good for one more playoff berth.  It’s crazy.  Joe “10-6 or Bust” Banner, your most annoying mutt of the week.  As always, feel free to share yours.  Vent a little.

*Unrelated Note.  There is a new short screenplay in the fiction writing section.  A short summary can be found in that page’s comments if you are interested.

DeSean Jackson “Shooting for the Top”

Charisma Like This Deserves to get Paid.

I feel a little depressed that there aren’t football picks to make today.  Who wants to start a Pro Bowl Pool?  10 bucks a square.  Anyway, without a game to throughly analyze and then get wrong, I’d thought I’d mention the most Philly-centric story coming out of Miami this week.  DeSean Jackson has hired Drew Rosenhaus, and he’s prowling the grounds, planting the seeds for a DeSean mega-extension.

Jackson is one of the best values in the league.  He still has two years left on his initial deal that is set to pay him just over a million dollars in the next two years (combined).   Being a second round pick, Jackson didn’t even hit the jackpot on his signing bonus.  His entire deal was worth only 3.47 million.  Using only as a relative term here.  Jackson essentially started out-performing the contract on day one, but NFL rules say you can’t renegotiate until after two seasons.  Enter “Next Question” Rosenhaus into the equation.  Jackson dumped his old agent in a flash, and went with the self-described shark.

At this point I’m sure every team has had their share of dealings with Rosenhaus, and the truth is, Jackson was probably going to be paid pretty well regardless of who his agent was.  The presence of Rosenhaus guarantees two things.  We’re constantly going to be hearing about this extension, and there’s that minute possibility that this could get ugly.  The Eagles are a frugal bunch after all.  I wonder if they were hoping to slide through one more cheap season before DeSean got a little greedy.   I wonder how far off the initial offers will be.  DeSean said he was “shooting for the top”, and allowing Drew to handle all the business.

I’m sure Rosenhaus will be exploring Roddy White territory for the deal.  Last off-season White signed a six-year, 50 million dollar deal with the Falcons that included over 18 million dollars in guarantees.  It made him the second highest paid receiver in the league, and if Jackson wants to be paid like the best, then that is probably the area they are thinking about.  It seems like an awful lot of money for the Eagles to commit to a wide receiver, but I don’t think you can underestimate Jackson’s worth to this team.  There’s nothing like a big-play threat.

Of course, you could also argue that Jackson is unlikely to continue this barrage of 50+ yard touchdowns, and there were times this year that defenses took him out of the game.  Are we concerned at all with the nagging lower body injuries?  I’m sure all of this will come into play when the deal gets worked out.  Hopefully it never gets to the point of an ugly holdout, or anything like that.  The Eagles are stubborn, though, and they’ll put up a fight.  In this case, I say just give the guy his money.  We don’t know who is going to be playing quarterback next year, but whoever it is, they’re going to need receivers.

This Ain’t Bobsleddin’

Hershel Walker will try his hand at MMA on Saturday Night.

Hershel Walker, one of the greatest college running backs ever, is probably largely unknown to the newest generation of sports fans.  At 47, his best days on the football field happened over 20 years ago.  Walker has never shied away from athletic challenge, though.  You may remember his foray into Olympic bobsledding (that was a long time ago too).   Saturday night on Showtime, Hershel will up the stakes by making his MMA debut with the Strikeforce promotion.  Walker’s physical conditioning has been the stuff of legend for years.  2,500 sit-ups and 1,500 push-ups a morning.  Or vice-versa?  Either way it’s mind-boggling.  He has also some martial arts background, but the jump to MMA seems risky, especially when he’ll be facing a fighter half his age.

It seems that MMA has become a popular thing to try for some athletes.  You can’t deny that it satisfies a need for competition, but the results have been mixed at best.  Putting aside the embarrassing performances of people like Jose Canseco, a few ex-athletes have taken serious runs at boxing and MMA.  Kendall Gill comes to mind, and of course Johnnie Morton’s MMA debut lasted all of 40 seconds until he was brutally knocked out.  You can check youtube for the video.  I think the “competitive juices” that Morton felt after football were extinguished in the ring that night.  So, this is going to be serious business for Walker who takes on Greg Nagy Saturday night.

Walker should be better prepared than Morton, and I’m sure Strikeforce went out of their way to set a fight that Hershel had a good chance to win, but you can’t always script the outcome you want in this sport.  Look at the career of Kimbo Slice.  As much as the promotions want him to be a phenomenon, he just hasn’t showed the goods in the ring.  I’m not sure how much star power Walker has left, but he certainly will bring in some new fans, something that MMA seems to excel at, and while watching Hershel make his debut they get to see a decent card as well.

The devastating queen of women’s MMA, Chris Cyborg, will fight for the first time since knocking out Gina Carano.  Also on the card is former professional wrestler Bobby Lashley, and a match-up between Robbie Lawler and Melvin Manhoef promises to bring fireworks.  Manhoef is said to possess Anderson Silva like striking ability, and anyone who has seen one of Anderson’s fights knows that can make for good television.

Overall, it’s a nice card for Strikeforce in a down period for MMA and specifically the UFC.  The extended absence of Brock Lesner, and the lack of marquee championship fight has left the last few UFC cards lacking.  This event, which is free if you have Showtime, could be worth a look on Saturday night.

I don’t know enough about Hershel or his opponent to make any kind of prediction, but let’s hope the Heisman trophy winner knows what he was getting into.  Win or lose, I don’t see much of a career in MMA for Hershel.  I think he’s just doing it as a new challenge, but if he continues to pursue it, he’s eventually going to run into someone he can’t handle.

Free iPad!

Just Kidding, Yuppie. Pull Your Zipper Back Up.

So, Apple unveiled their new device yesterday, the iPad. I heard they contemplated calling it “The Prom Date” because it does everything but sleep with you, but that may have just been speculation.  The tech bloggers are really in a lather about this one.  The demo with Steve Jobs and his underlings set the World on fire.  I’m not exactly sure what the device does.  I guess it’s like carrying around just the screen of your lap top.  Only bad ass Apple style.  I’m already picturing the holsters that people are going to be wearing for this thing.  Ugh, it’s going to be rough.

The best news is, 75 million people already know how to use it, because of the guy phone and the guy pod touch.  Well, unfortunately I am not one of those 75 million, so I fear I would be hopelessly overwhelmed with the iPad.  Plus, it would look a little ridiculous in the pocket of my jeans.  People don’t care, though.  They WANT it so badly.  I’m sure the vast majority will never use it for anything other than futzing around on the interweb and reading e-books, but that won’t stop them from buying one.  Or maybe two (sell the other one on eBay for a fortune, snitches!).

I guess I’m the last person who actually likes to hold a book in their hand, and the last person that only needs to carry one mobile internet device at a time.  Plus, if this thing isn’t 4G, then I’m not even listening (I have no idea what 4G is).  I’ll be happy to cede my place in line for the iPad to you.  I was just here with a question about my Apple II-C.

The more of these devices that come out, the more I wonder if we’re moving toward a society where no one ever makes eye-contact .  I’m not saying I’m necessarily opposed, I just wonder how many distractions we can possibly deal with until we become self-sustaining iPeople.  As it is now most people can’t stand quietly for 30 seconds without fiddling with something.  It begs the question, what did people used to do?  Look at each other?  The inhumanity!

I’m not really crusading against iThings.  I don’t care.  Go get one.  Apple is a fine company, except for that abortion of a computer they sold me in college.  How I went to a Mac campus in the darkest days of the company, I will never know…but seriously, go wild.  I just don’t think the thing looks that amazing.  Are these devices really life changing?  Plus, don’t you think your iPhone is going to be jealous?

**Just a serious note at the end here.  J.D. Salinger passed away today at 91.  Salinger was reclusive later in life, and hadn’t published a work in years, but his novel The Catcher in the Rye is timeless.  Probably the first book of any worth I read cover to cover and enjoyed.  The following decades have brought many imitators, but no match.  His death fuels speculation of unpublished works, and perhaps finally a film version of Catcher.  I hope we don’t get too greedy in this case, and there should never be a movie version of Catcher in the Rye.  Humble opinion.  Regardless, we lose an American icon.  And, if there’s any chance you haven’t read him, please go out and do yourself a favor.  Don’t wait until you can download his books on your iPad.  You’ll want to own a copy.

Yankees Serious About This Budget Thing.

In Cozy Yankee Stadium Randy Winn Could Hit 5 or 6 Homers.

The Yankees odd winter continues.  I’m not necessarily judging it as unsuccessful, but certainly out of character.  Their moves have left a lot of people wondering what their plan was.  Were they getting ready to load up in 2011?  Well, Felix Hernandez signed an extension in Seattle, so part of that plan went out the window.  Curtis Granderson remains the biggest addition the Yankees have made, and when they brought Randy Winn into the fold yesterday, it signaled the official end of the Johnny Damon speculation.  For weeks we’d heard that the Yankees couldn’t afford to bring Damon back, but I don’t know that everyone believed that sentiment.  Maybe just driving Johnny’s price down?  Nope, just circling Randy Winn.

In my mind, the addition of Winn puts even more pressure on Granderson to be a star in New York.  Randy Winn was terrible last season.  Just awful in San Francisco.  He had been a steady player before 2009, but he’ll turn 35 this season, and while New York didn’t spend much to bring him in, they’re relying on a player in his mid-thirties to have a big bounce back season.  Winn could end up sharing time with Brett Gardner, but that’s a platoon that would struggle to get anyway near Johnny Damon’s level of production from 2009.  I don’t want to exaggerate, but these two are like a National League 8-hole hitter.  You don’t see many of those in AL lineups.

So, in my opinion the pressure to pick up the offensive slack will fall with Granderson.  Obviously with Jeter, Teixeira, and A-Rod there is plenty of help there, but when the Yankees were really clicking last year, every time they turned the lineup over, it felt like a new nightmare was beginning.  Now, I think a couple of these guys have off years, you throw Winn into the mix, the inconsistencies of Swisher and Cano, and this is a lineup that could occasionally struggle.  For a team that won a lot of games with the bats last season, that isn’t a good sign.

Obviously the Yankees are still a very good team, and you could argue they are the very best, but while some other teams are clearly better than they were in 2009, I’m not sure you can say that about NY.  Perhaps they will be, but there are some very key players advancing in age (Jeter, Posada, Rivera), they lost Damon’s and Matsui’s production, and added Javier Vazquez to a rotation where some people were expecting a bigger name.

The AL that had the best off-season on paper is Seattle.   Adding Cliff Lee and Chone Figgins, and locking up Felix Hernandez were all significant moves.  Seattle had a long way to go, though, and while I wouldn’t want to face a Lee/Hernandex duo in the playoffs, they still have to get there.  On offense you have Ichiro, Figgins, and then things get a little dicey.  They brought in Milton Bradley.  Jack Wilson plays a great shortstop, but will they score enough runs?  They’ll certainly pitch and play defense.  Maybe they need one more offensive option.  How about Johnny Damon?  Seems fitting.

Brush With Greatness.

Eddie Jordan Out and About.

So a while back I ran into Mike D’Antoni at Davio’s in Philadelphia.  Wild times.  D’Antoni turned out to be quite a character, and not only that, he bet me his Knicks would lose to the Sixers the following night.  Joke was on him.  The Sixers pulled out a one-point loss.  He didn’t know what I know.  Andre Iguodala doesn’t make last second shots.  You know who does know that?  Eddie Jordan.  The coach of the Sixers has a front row seat to the atrocity that is Sixers basketball, and who did I happen to bump into at the ‘Nova game on Wednesday Night?  You guessed it, Eddie Jordan.  The conversation went down something like this:

I was sitting in a Club Box.  That’s the section where you pay more money for tickets so you can have a bad view of the action, but don’t have to walk as far to get a beer.  I won my ticket off some unassuming idiot in the parking lot in a heated game of cornhole.  This poor kid had been drunk since mid-morning, and I was making every shot I looked at.  I put things in holes (that’s what she said), what can I say?  The kid was better off anyway.  He was a Notre Dame fan, and Adrian Dantley ended up playing like garbage.  So, I cruised into the box with about ten minutes left in the first half.  The score was, Who-Cares? to Who-Cares?   I took a seat at the bar, and waited for the bartender.  When she wandered over, I had one simple question.

ME:  Is that Molson Canadian…in a can?

BARTENDER:  Yes.

ME:  I haven’t had a Molson since the Molson Ice Keg Blackout of 1999.   I’ll take two, and keep ‘em coming.

I slap a ten-dollar bill down on the bar with authority.

BARTENDER:  They’re 8 dollars each.

ME:  F*ck You.

She’s about to kick me out, but then I crack a half-smile, muss her hair, and slide her a counterfeit fifty.  Problem solved.  She turns around to fill my beer pong cups with Molson, and I peruse the room.  There’s a guy standing in the corner that looks a lot like Eddie Jordan.  I wonder if he’s still the coach of the Sixers.  I go through my Sixers coach progression…Matt Goukas, Jim Lynam, Larry Brown, Eddie Jordan.  Yep, he’s the guy.  I grab my two Molsons and head over to him.

ME:  You look like you could use a beer.

JORDAN:  No thanks.

ME:  Shut up, and take the beer Nancy.

At this point Jordan looks a little offended, but then I chug both beers in a matter of moments, and hand Jordan the empty cups.

ME:  Can you throw these out for me Playboy?

Jordan gives me a hard stare, and adjusts his tie.  Then I slap him on the cheek, and bust out laughing.  Jordan’s expression turns flat, but when he doesn’t hit me, I convince him to come over to the bar. I order another couple of beers, and Jordan asks for a Sprite.

ME: Sprite?  Why not ask for chocolate milk?

JORDAN:  I can’t be out drinking.

ME:  I know, I know who you are.  You’re Eddie Jordan.  You’re the guy the Sixers are going to fire after 23 games next season.

JORDAN:  Think I’ll make it that far?

Jordan starts laughing at his own joke, and snorts some Sprite out of his nose.  This guy is an absolute mess.

ME:  I would have canned you already.  What are you doing here anyway?

JORDAN:  I wanted to see some good basketball.

ME:  Right, well maybe Jay will give you a job when the Sixers get rid of you.

JORDAN: He wouldn’t have me.

ME:  No sh*t.

EJ looks down at his Sprite when I say this, and I sense he’s getting a little sad.  I realize he doesn’t have the outlaw personality of Mike D’Antoni.  I’m going to have to nurture him a little bit.  Take him back to his happy place.

ME:  It must have been cool being Michael Jordan’s brother.

JORDAN:  We’re not related.

ME:  Get the hell out of here.

Jordan shakes his head, and I realize I really stepped in a pile.

ME:  So, you’re like Randy Jackson.  Famous last name, but not famous.

JORDAN:  I guess.  I coached Michael though, when he played for the Wizards.

ME:  Michael Jordan never played for the Wizards.

JORDAN:  Yeah, he did.

At this point I feel bad for the guy, and just agree with him.  He’s so down that even the bartender is weirded out.  She sets a six-pack of Molson cans on the bar next to me, and flees the scene.

ME:  So, how’s A.I. working out?

JORDAN:  Is that the skinny guy?

ME:  I guess.

JORDAN:  I can’t keep everyone straight.  I haven’t played that tall white guy in a month because I forgot his name.

ME:  He blows anyway.

JORDAN:  I figured.

ME:  Listen, Eddie, I think you need a beer, or how about we go to a show?  Some guy slipped me two free tickets to Christine’s Steakhouse and Cabaret outside.  How about 8 ounces of sirloin and a lap dance.

JORDAN:  Not even strippers like me.

At this point I’ve completely had it.  I had been running so high after my run-in with D’Antoni that I just assumed all NBA coaches were wild S.O.B’s.  Jordan was a complete downer.  He was turning my Molsons into Coors Light.  I’d had 4 in eleven minutes, and didn’t feel a thing.  I had to cut my losses.  I slid the tickets to Christine’s across the bar to him, and got up, grabbing my six-pack.

ME:  Here you go Eddie, in case you change your mind about that sirloin.  I’m going to check out the student section.